Once again, we’ve waited until the last minute to try and fix our fiscal problems. This time, it’s the sequester that will go into effect on March 1st unless Congress acts.
If the sequester goes into effect, about one trillion dollars of federal spending will get cut—half of the cuts going towards defense ($42.7 billion). These cuts may cause furloughs in defense sectors (military, airport security) and other cuts may leave many teachers out of jobs.
About $3 billion of sequester cuts will go towards education. According to the National Education Association the sequester will result in:
- Services cut or eliminated for millions of students.
- Funding for children living in poverty, special education, and Head Start slashed by billions.
- Ballooning class sizes.
- Elimination of after-school programs.
- Decimation of programs for our most vulnerable—homeless students, English language learners, and high-poverty, struggling schools.
- Slashing of financial aid for college students.
- Loss of tens of thousands of education jobs—at early childhood, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.
However, the education cuts can be made smarter in a smarter way. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, suggested reallocating funds may ease the blow for students. He cites a previous change in budgeting:
“We took $68 billion that was going to subsidize bankers from our student loan program…put about $28 billion to cut the deficit…$40 billion to increase Pell grants. We’ve gone from six million Pell recipients to about nine million Pell recipients without going to taxpayers for a nickel.”
The sequester was built to be an ultimatum that forced politicians to revisit the government’s budget. However, delay towards addressing the issue has created bipartisan distaste for the imminent measures. Neither side wants this plan to become permanently enacted. Yet, neither wants to see their side lose, even a little bit.
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Why has there been such a delay? Well, for starters, President Obama wants to replace the sequester with a new deal that includes increased taxes and spending cuts. Another option would have been John Boehner’s plan B, which would reallocate cuts towards food stamps, the Affordable Care Act, and Dodd-Frank. While plan B seems to be a manifesto of Republican ideals for government spending, these cuts most likely will not go through this time around.
As the decision date nears, schools are handing teachers pink slips that say they will not be able to return next fall. It’s not just the workers that need to worry; it’s students, too. With decreases in financial aid, special education programs and Head Start losing funds, students of all ages will be losing out on their education if the sequester is enacted as is.
The problem with the sequester dates back to 2011, when it was passed as part of the debt ceiling compromise. When a deal was reached to stop us from falling off the fiscal cliff, the sequester was subsequently delayed until March. We’ve known about this problem for about two years, yet we’re only trying to fix the cuts about a week before they go into effect. Way to go, Washington.
It is time for each party to make some sacrifices and compromises for the benefit of the American people.
Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org